For nearly a year, the largest gathering of native tribes since the Battle of Little Bighorn has convened at the Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Their purpose is to block the massive Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would run through four states, across active farmland and forests, and beneath the Missouri River, which serves as the tribe’s primary water source.
Supporters of the pipeline focus on its job creation and its proposed exportation of half a billion barrels of crude oil to Illinois each day. Native American groups and an increasing number of outsiders, including veterans and activists, are against the pipeline because of the threat to their water, the disturbance of sacred land, and the potential for harmful environmental consequences. The pipeline breaks a century old treaty – something the United States is certainly no stranger to – further violating the tribal sovereignty of the Sioux.
This move is characterized by a lack of consultation, a lack of free and informed consent, and a lack of cultural freedom and respect (imagine the outrage at an oil pipeline through Arlington cemetery). Consultation is a prerequisite for environmental moves, but the proposition of this pipeline did not include the Sioux in the steps of decision making from the start.
On Dec. 4, 2016, as thousands of military veterans from across the country crowded the camp in solidarity, the Department of the Army announced its decision to deny an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline route. This unexpected triumph was cut short when, in January, Trump signed the executive order allowing construction to continue on both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline.
A “disgruntled Native American,” informs me, “With this as a precedent, it shows that Native Americans really were stripped of any and all power and autonomy, and that these treaties are just the lazy afterthought of a genocide. It takes away hope for a redemption from a government unconcerned by the ramifications of destroying a people so fully that centuries have not allowed recovery.”
DAPL is also in direct violation of environmental justice requirements that state low income and minority communities cannot be made to bear a disproportionate impact. In other words: you can't shove pollutants onto the poor. Negative environmental consequences disproportionately affect marginalized communities. This old-fashioned American land-grab is no exception.
Native Americans have been shot with rubber bullets and treated with chemical warfare. Until recently, mainstream media outlets have largely ignored their struggle. When the publications finally conceded, they claimed that protestors were being forced to leave because of the harsh North Dakota winter – North Dakota being their home state, that winter being one of their winters.
It is time we reported the situation accurately and started being educated, and involved! If you care about sovereignty, honest policies, and our earth, then you must stand up against construction of harmful pipelines in our country’s borders.
Marirose Bernal Staff Reporter